Karen Kilbane
Jun 11, 2017 · 4 min read

Since the age of 5 I’ve noticed many verbal and written diatribes excoriating parents for mollycoddling their children. Accusations allege parents “nowadays” give children too much supervision, too much structure, too little responsibility, too little independence, yada yada.

I was young when the 60’s were raging. The elder generation said terrible things about us young people and our parents.

Adults my age must not remember because we have become the latest throng of accusers. But this is the way of things. With research you’ll find elders have been accusing younger generations of bad parenting since time out of mind.

Elders believe youngers are way too entitled, have things way too easy, and don’t have a clue how ‘good’ they have it. But how can every single old person think this way every year for the last 3000 years?

Lately, elders become positively unglued about young people having what they believe is way too too much structure and supervision.

Before jumping on the bandwagon of zealous advocates for children to roam free range without adult supervision, here are a few statistics:

  1. 23% of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18 (National Center for Victims of Crime)
  2. 2000 children die each day from preventable accidents (WHO, World Health Organization)
  3. 830,000 children die each year from preventable accidents (WHO)
  4. Millions of children each year suffer from non fatal injuries, many of them requiring long term hospitalization and rehabilitation (WHO)

Do we really want free range children roaming around our cities and towns?

Envision a 15 year old boy, a victim of sexual abuse since age 3. He has a distorted sense of his own sexuality and that of others. He finds himself alone with a 10 year old girl and makes a rash decision to molest her. If he knew an adult was consistently, intermittently checking up on him, the future of both these youths could be preserved. If this boy makes it through the vagaries of adolescence with any hope of overcoming the abuse, he must have supervision by the adults in his neighborhood, school, and any other youth activity groups.

Erring on the side of too much supervision or structure is an error I would much rather make than erring on too little. I am alarmed by the vitriol of adults who yammer on about children they believe overprotected by adults. Do they think all children live in some picture perfect version of childhood?

If all children lived a perfect storybook fantasy of childhood they would all live near sparkling brooks with perfect numbers of trees, sidewalks, bicycles, and imagination powered toys. Hoards of healthy, happy, well adjusted children would serve as willing and wholesome playmates in each neighborhood and apartment complex. Bullies would be easily spotted and cured. Sexual predators would be safely locked away.

Children would be so well adjusted due to all their unstructured free roaming they would beg to be given chore after chore. And children would get so good at decision making during their oodles of unstructured time they would make only the very best choices at home and at school.

People who believe in this fairy tale accuse and rail against parents perceived as over-supervising or over-structuring.

In reality, at any given moment in their development a child can become exceedingly vulnerable to making bad decisions or falling victim to a peer’s bad decisions. Isn’t it wise for adults to be a safety net to maximize each child’s chance of growing into adulthood unscathed by abuse, injury, or death?

The goal for all our young people is for them to grow up and be independent, responsible citizens who make optimal decisions in every context. But children are not miniature adults and shouldn’t be treated as such. It is great to give children unstructured time to be free and explore various environments without adult intervention. But children should always have watchful eyes on them so an adult can step in in case play becomes dangerous or abusive.

Keeping an ever watchful eye doesn’t mean you do everything for your kids, step in to solve every dispute, or micro-manage every bit of their time. It means they know you or another adult will be checking up on them intermittently to make sure all is well.

And finally, if you have spent time with many children of different ages and developmental levels, you come to realize some children simply need more structure and supervision than others due to their various cognitive and/or physical differences. In my opinion, grumpy adults who blanketly disparage whole generations of children and their parents for getting everything wrong should be taken with a grain of salt!

The Synapse

Authentic voices in education. To join us, tweet @synapsepub.

Karen Kilbane

Written by

My students with special needs have led me to develop a hypothesis for a brain-compatible theory of personality. Reach me at karenkilbane1234@gmail.com

The Synapse

Authentic voices in education. To join us, tweet @synapsepub.

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